PESHAWAR (APP): Research scholars of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry have warned of threats posed by Cryptosporidium, scientifically recognized as an opportunistic zoonotic parasite that infects both humans as well as animals and is considered a major cause of diarrhea often resulting in death due to severe dehydration.

In a study conducted in three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Kohat, the researchers found higher prevalence of Cryptosporidium among children (30/180) 16.66 per cent as compared to adults (10/180) 5.55 per cent.

The study is conducted by several scholars including Naimatullah Khan, Muhammad Hassan Saleem, Aneela Zameer Durrani, Nisar Ahmad, Ayesha Hassan, Sultan Ayaz, , Sajid Umar, Muhammad Luqman Sohail, Muhammad Shafee, Ikramullah Khan, Mumtaz Ali Khan, Azmat Ullah Khan, Naimat Ullah Malik and Abdul Razzaq.

“Cryptosporidium infects a wide range of livestock animals and humans, causing substantial economic
losses and serious public health concerns,” observed the researchers.

Exposure to animals, poor sanitation and hygienic conditions are the factors responsible for transmission of the parasitic diseases and these factors are highly prevalent in the study area, where poor sanitation, open toiletries, shared water sources of animals and humans causes its spread among the human population, they added.

This is the first study addressing one of the main causes of neonatal mortality in Southern KPK by Cryptosporidium and its zoonotic potential.

A total of 360 stool samples were collected from the District Headquarters Hospitals of all three districts and were screened through microscopy.

Results yielded an overall prevalence of 11.11% in all three districts. Prevalence was highest in district Bannu (11.66%), followed by district Lakki Marwat and Kohat with 10% in each district.

Statistical analysis revealed significant differences among children of different age groups with highest disease prevalence in children of less than 5 years of age (21.40%) and lowest in children of 11-15 years of age (15.99%).

Individuals visiting District Headquarters Hospitals of the study area with abdominal anomalies i.e., acute diarrhea (three loose stools within the last 24 hours prior to hospital visit) or persistent diarrhea, vomiting (once in last 24 hour before hospital visit) and abdominal cramps were included in the study. All the participants had exposure to livestock and other animals.

Higher prevalence was recorded in children having close contact with domestic animals (20%) as compared to those having no contact with domestic animals (12.94%), adds the study.

The age of children was found to be a significant risk factor for the occurrence of Cryptosporidium in Southern KP, researchers warn.

This high incidence of the disease in children may be related to the lack of pre-existing immunity. Moreover, children were more exposed to water during playing, increasing the chance of getting infected and there was a more frequent attendance of diarrheic children than adults at DHQs. Cryptosporidium in early age in the study area can also be related to malnutrition which has been described as a potential risk factor for diarrhea due to Cryptosporidium.

The researchers suggest prevention as the only way out to protect masses from getting infection from Cryptosporidium.

There is no vaccine currently available against Cryptosporidium infection as limited understanding of
its specific biology and challenges encountered in vaccine development, they added.

Hence, to design effective disease control and prevention strategies a comprehensive understanding of various risk factors contributing to the spread of disease among human and animal population is unavoidable, they suggested.

In conclusion, the study reiterated its warning about the zoonotic transmission of Cryptosporidium, one of the four main causes of morbidity in preschool children.

It provides evidence of Cryptosporidium transmission in young children from livestock animals. Furthermore, poor sanitation and contaminated water and the environment fuel the fire of its
spread. Due to limited treatment options available and poor healthcare facilities in study areas, situation can aggravate if remain unnoticed.

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